IRS Won’t Say If It Will Comply With Congressional Demand for All Communications and Names Involved in Discriminating Against Tea Party Groups

May 14, 2013 - 11:08 AM
IRS

(AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - The Internal Revenue Service has given no indication to the House Ways and Means Committee about whether it will respond to the committee’s demand, delivered in writing last Friday, that the agency hand over copies of all internal communications containing the words “tea party,” “patriot,” or “conservative” and the names and titles of all IRS officials involved in discriminating against tea party and conservative groups when they submitted applications for tax-exempt status.

IRS spokesmen also did not respond to repeated emailed and telephone inquiries that CNSNews.com made between Friday afternoon and Tuesday morning asking if the IRS intended to comply with the committee’s demand--and if not, why not.

On Friday, the Associated Press broke the news that Lois Lerner, head of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations division, had told an American Bar Association conference that the IRS had targeted for heightened scrutiny groups whose tax-exempt status applications included the words “tea party” or “patriot.”

"That was wrong,” Lerner said. “That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive and it was inappropriate. That's not how we go about selecting cases for further review.”

"The IRS would like to apologize for that," Lerner said.

The AP reported that Lerner claimed the practice was initiated by low-level IRS workers in Cincinnati and was not politically motivated.

After this news broke, Rep. Charles Boustany, chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight, sent a letter to Acting IRS Commissioner Steve Miller. The letter instructed the IRS to provide the committee by Wednesday with “all communications containing the words ‘tea party,’ ‘patriot or ‘conservative,’" and the “names and titles of all individuals involved in this discrimination."

On Friday afternoon, after the committee sent this letter to the IRS, CNSNews.com contacted IRS spokesman Dean J. Patterson via telephone and asked him a series of written questions by email. One of the questions was: “Does the IRS intend to comply with this request?”

The IRS did not respond to CNSNews.com on Friday.

On Monday, morning CNSNews.com asked IRS Spokesman Patterson via email: “Will the IRS comply with the committee’s request to provide these things by Wednesday?”

When IRS Spokesman Patterson had not responded by Monday afternoon, CNSNews.com followed up with this if question: “If the IRS does not intend to comply with the House Ways and Means Committee's request for ‘all communications containing the words ‘tea party’ ‘patriot’ or ‘conservative’” and the “names and titles of all individuals involved in” discriminating against tea party and conservative groups by subjecting their applications for tax exempt status to heightened scrutiny, on what basis would the IRS refuse such a request from the congressional committee that has oversight over it?”

On Tuesday morning, CNSNews.com asked the House Ways and Means Committee if the IRS had indicated to the committee whether it intended to comply with the committee’s request for the communications and names. A committee spokesperson said: “We have not yet received a response from the IRS or gotten indication that they will respond.” The spokesperson noted that “the date we requested all materials is tomorrow.”

CNSNews.com then contacted the IRS press office again and was put through to the voicemail of IRS Spokesman Patterson. CNSNews.com left a message asking, again, whether the IRS intended to comply with the committee’s request.

CNSNews.com then contacted IRS Spokesman Anthony Burke and put the question to him verbally and via emails that were carbon copied to both Burke and his colleague Patterson.

These IRS spokesmen did not immediately respond.

Acting IRS Commissioner Miller is now scheduled to testify in the Ways and Means Committee on Friday alongside Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, whose office has conducted an as-yet unpublished audit of the IRS  in this matter.